This article is part two of a series from Laurie Ward of the Complete Cricketer Academy. To go to part one click here.
In the last article we looked at head position in bowling and fielding. Today we look at head position in batting.
Arguably the most important area of the game to be aware of your head positioning and balance is batting.
Your set-up, stance and any pre-delivery movements must be honed to have your head perfectly still, positioned correctly and aligned according to your dominant eye at the point of release by the bowler.
Your head should be in a “neutral” position, not overbalanced to either side. It should be slightly forward in your stance, over your front foot. This small distance can make a big difference in the reading of line and length as it gains vital time when moving forward to a ball or reading earlier when to rock back to the short ball. All batsmen want to avoid half-movements, particularly at the start of their innings, and to be positive, forward or back.
There are many variations in stance, depending mainly on the batsman’s own comfort and according to which is his/her dominant eye.
- Neutral or parallel stance: Feet set-up aligned along the batsman’s line of guard. Fairly neutral, with a right-hand batter’s left eye being more forward towards the bowler. This is the old textbook stance, but the batsman should preferably open this out, moving his front foot slightly toward leg to allow a more open position and the “back” eye to become more open and to have clearer sight of the ball upon release.
- Open stance: A more exaggerated set-up with the front foot moved further to leg and the eyes squarer on to the bowler. Peter Willey, later on in his career, adopted this stance against the Windies speed quartet to assist with picking up the ball as early as possible. This stance, and positioning of the feet make it more difficult to get across to play on the front foot on the off side, but Willey did not have too many balls in his half against the likes of Marshall, Holding, Roberts and Croft!
- Closed stance: If you are looking for your head and eyes to be level, still and balanced at delivery then avoid this set-up at all costs. With your front foot further around to the off side than your back foot, your shoulders, head and eyes are more aligned to mid-off. To get a better view of release a batsman tends to twist at the hip to align his eyes forward, which in turn throws more weight on to the front leg, making quick, balanced footwork almost impossible and a tendency therefore for the batsman to play around his pad.
When playing forward-defensively or in attacking strokes the head plays a big part in getting the timing and balance right to play the ball correctly.
In front foot shots, the head and shoulders dip and align with the path of the ball. The head and shoulder lead the forward movement with the front leg following to set the base for the controlled downswing, into impact “under” or in line with the eyes. The head should remain down throughout the stroke to maintain the eyes’ focus on the ball as long as possible and the weight and momentum staying down in the shot.
(Science proves that the batsman does not watch the ball all the way through the air onto the bat though)
In playing shots to leg, the head should remain neutral or balance slightly to the leg side. If a batsman topples” to off (a common error) he is less likely to make contact with the ball.
Back foot shots also require good balance and positioning of the head. If your head’s centre of gravity is backwards, the more likely it is that the shot will go airborne.
With back foot drives and defence, the head should be as close to the line of the ball as possible, to play the ball “under the eyes” with the head slightly forward.
The pull shot requires the head to be in line with the contact point with the ball, ideally taken at full extension of the arms in front of the eyes. Although not always possible (or realistic) against extreme pace, the head’s weight should be slightly forward.
Cut shots require head and shoulder movement towards the impact point, in line with the eyes and with the head’s weight towards off, over the toe of the back leg, creating a balanced and powerful base for the bat to strike through the line.
To maximize batting performance, the batsman must “use his head” to his advantage. Keeping as still as possible allows him/her to pick up the subconscious cues from the bowler’s run-up and delivery and to allow maximum concentration on the hand/ball/fingers/crease position upon release.
How to determine your dominant eye
How to determine which of your player’s eyes is dominant is an important factor in how a coach approaches working with their game.
There are various methods on how to see which eye is dominant but the simple test below works well with all ages:
- Extend your arms in front of you with your palms facing away.
- Bring your hands together, forming a small hole by crossing the thumbs and fore fingers.
- Choose a small object about 15-20 feet away from you. With both eyes open, focus on the object as you look through the small hole.
- Close one eye and then the other. When you close one eye, the object will be stationary. When you close the other eye, the object should disappear from the hole or jump to one side.
- If the object does not move when you cover one eye, then that eye is dominant. The eye that sees the object and does not move is the dominant eye.
- From an observers (coach’s) perspective, if you look through the hole back at the player, you will see their dominant eye lined up with the hole.
image credit: UK Pictures